Martin: Cenla could be poised for energy boom

12 21, 2011 by The Town Talk

Central Louisiana could be poised for an energy boom, Roy O. Martin III told the Alexandria Rotary Club on Tuesday.

Martin, president of Martin Cos. and a founding principal in oil and gas exploration company Indigo Minerals LLC, was speaking mainly about the potential for oil and gas discoveries. But, as the recent announcement of a planned biofuels plant in the Alexandria area shows, there is potential in the area's abundant timber resources, as well.

Sundrop Fuels recently unveiled plans for a facility to convert woody biomass into transportation fuel. Martin touched on that and its potential for the timber industry, but his main focus was on recent heightened activity in shales that could bring an economic benefit to the area.

"You would think every drop of oil that could be found has been found," Martin said. "It's hasn't. We haven't even scratched the surface. ... It's mind-boggling how much oil and natural gas is locked in these shale plays in our region. The opportunity is there for this country to become self-sufficient on oil and natural gas with the correct energy policy."

The potential of shales has been shown in the Haynesville Shale in North Louisiana and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. Oil- and natural gas-rich deposits have been discovered, along with natural gas byproduct liquids that can serve as feedstock in chemical plants.

Recently, companies have been exploring opportunities in the central part of Louisiana in the Louisiana Eagle Ford and Tuscaloosa Marine shales. Martin believes the impact locally could be similar to other large shale developments, though he doesn't think it will be the same type of "feeding frenzy" that once characterized the Haynesville Shale because energy companies "learned their lesson from that."

"That can happen in Central Louisiana, absolutely," Martin said. "It's only a matter of time before it gets here."

Much of the local activity has been in southern Avoyelles and parts of Vernon parishes. More exploration will eventually reach into Rapides Parish, Martin said.

"It just depends on the volume of hydrocarbons," he said. "In this parish, that's basically an unknown. But even if it's not in Rapides, it's going to affect Rapides.

"It's a very exciting time for Central Louisiana. It's an industry that's going to fuel a lot of jobs in this state."

Martin did sound a note of caution about hydraulic fracturing -- or "fracking" as it's more commonly known. The process has drawn concerns about polluting groundwater, but Martin contends it's safe and necessary.

"If hydraulic fracturing is overregulated and stopped, these resources will never be developed," he said. "It's the only way we know how to reach these hydrocarbons economically."